Sidewalk salt and other ice melting agents may keep humans from taking a spill, but many of the commonly used brands can actually be harmful to and in some cases fatal for pets.
Dogs are at a higher risk of injury than say cats—unless you walk your cat. The de-icing salts can burn paw pads and can cause sickness if ingested.
"If you happen to encounter it on your walk my best advice would be to use a warm wash rag to wash off your pet's paws before they have a chance to lick it off," Amanda Serafini, a veterinary technician with the Baltimore Humane Society, said.
The Baltimore Humane Society uses the product Safe Paws.
"Cat litter is also a good alternative," Serafini said.
ABC2 meteorologists are forecasting a rough winter season ahead , which would make opportunities to walk the dog rare and the use of shovels and sidewalk salt common.
The ASPCA issued the following statement on ice-melting products :
"Ice melt contains calcium chloride, which has the potential to be corrosive. It may cause severe skin and gastrointestinal tract irritation, depending on the concentration and circumstances of exposure. Because of this, if you plan to use this ice melt on your property, take care not to apply it thickly—and wipe your dog's paws off thoroughly if he or she steps on any of the crystals or pellets.
"As an extra note, keep a look out for ice melt products that are labeled as ‘pet safe.' You may wish to consider these as a relatively safer alternative."
Antifreeze poses another winter danger for dogs, possibly more so than salt because it's actually sweet to the taste, Serafini said. The active ingredient ethylene glycol is highly poisonous to pets.
The Humane Society of the United States reports that it could only take a few tablespoons of antifreeze to jeopardize your pet's life. In 2012, manufacturers began "bittering" the taste of antifreeze to deter pets from ingesting it.
Yet, some "sweet" antifreeze products remain on the shelf. Cautious pet owners should look for antifreeze that contains propylene glycol.
So how can you tell when your pet is having a reaction to ice melt or antifreeze?
"Some dogs will yelp depending on how sensitive their paws are," Serafini said.
Animals that ingest the chemicals will exhibit lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea.